Political News

No one knows what the GOP health plan is, even Republicans

Posted June 14

Senate Republican leaders say they still hope to vote on a bill to repeal Obamacare before lawmakers leave town for the July 4th recess.

There's just one hiccup with that plan: Almost everyone seems to be in the dark about the legislation.

Since House Republicans passed a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare last month after much hand-wringing and drama, a "working group" of Senate Republicans have been meeting to share their preferences for a health care bill. It is now up to the Senate Budget Committee -- in consultation with key senators and leadership -- to draft the language.

But with Independence Day now just three weeks away, there are no plans for any hearings. And as of Tuesday morning, multiple aides to senators who sit on the working group responded in the negative when asked whether they have yet to see any text or version of a bill.

"They have not given us anything," one Senate Republican aide told CNN.

"No," answered another.

The irony of moving forward with nothing in public is hardly lost on Democrats, who were pummeled by Republicans in 2009 as they were drafting the Affordable Care Act.

Then-House Minority Leader John Boehner lamented at the time about Obamacare: "Look at how this bill was written. Can you say it was done openly? With transparency and accountability? Without backroom deals that were struck behind closed doors? ... Hell no, you can't!"

Still being written

Some Republican senators and aides are downplaying the lack of clarity so far, insisting that it reflects the reality that the bill is still being written. They argue that reaching a consensus on such a divisive and complicated issue will take time and is more easily accomplished without adjudicating the details in the press.

Sen. David Perdue, a Georgia Republican, said the closed-door process has given his colleagues space to have difficult and complex intra-party debate.

"This is one where I think leadership is really pushing to have all points of view exposed right now and have that debate early and not get them pushed in a corner where they can't get to a 'yes,' " Perdue said.

But other GOP lawmakers are publicly venting their frustrations.

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who attended a meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House on Tuesday, said upon returning to Capitol Hill that she couldn't say whether GOP leaders were taking into account her suggestions.

"I don't know because I have no idea if we even have a bill," Murkowski said. "I learned more from you all in this conversation that there may have in fact have been something submitted to CBO, but if that's the case, I don't know what it is nor what it says."

Asked if she was frustrated and whether she wishes there were hearings on the legislation, she answered: "Yes."

'Exposing a vampire to sunlight'

The process has invited ire from The New York Times editorial board, which wrote on Tuesday that Republican senators were working on a bill that could take away insurance from millions of people -- all while refusing to subject the bill to public scrutiny.

"They are coming up with the legislation behind closed doors without holding hearings, without consulting lawmakers who disagree with them and without engaging in any meaningful public debate," the editorial board wrote. "Opening it to scrutiny before a vote would be the congressional equivalent of exposing a vampire to sunlight."

The uproar about a Senate health care bill that critics say is being written in secret comes just weeks after similar accusations were leveled at House Republicans.

The House legislation was similarly criticized for being written behind closed doors, with even Republican lawmakers out of the loop for weeks. GOP Sen. Rand Paul led a particularly memorable search expedition around the Capitol looking for the bill he said was being kept under lock and key.

"This should be an open and transparent process," Paul said at the time. "This is being presented as if it were a national secret, as if this was a plot to invade another country, as if this were national security. That's wrong."

Republican members who didn't serve on the relevant committees weren't able to see drafts of the legislation. And when it was released, members weren't back in Washington immediately to discuss it as a full conference. There were no hearings held about the legislation.

It didn't help the optics after the fact when some Republican lawmakers were forced to acknowledge that they had not read the bill before voting in support of it.

Drawing the most heated disapproval was House GOP leaders' decision to vote on their Obamacare repeal bill before the Congressional Budget Office could score the final version. House Republicans ultimately passed the bill without a score from the CBO could conduct important analysis, including what the bill would cost and how many people would be covered under it.

Legislative jam

Now, Senate Democrats are again forcefully speaking out against their GOP colleagues' quiet drafting of a health care bill.

In a particularly heated exchange at a hearing last week, Democratic Sen. Clair McCaskill asked Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch whether any hearings would be held on the yet-to-be-released bill.

After a long pause -- and consulting with an aide -- Hatch began to respond, "I don't know that there's going to be another hearing, but we've invited you to participate and give your ideas."

"No, that's not true," McCaskill said, adding that during the drafting of Obamacare, "dozens of Republican amendments were offered and accepted in that hearing process."

Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said at a Tuesday hearing that Republicans were "jamming their version of Trumpcare through the Senate."

"They have held no hearings, engaged in no public debate, and provided no information for people across the county to understand what this all-male, Republican working group has in store for their health and financial security," Murray said.

5 Comments

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  • Malakai Bluebone Jun 14, 11:08 a.m.
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    There were no open committees. Obamacare was written by a back room economist that was told to take into account the stupidity of the average american voter. Even Nancy Pelosi admitted it was kept so quiet that you "have to pass the bill to see what is in it away from the controversy"

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QV7dDSgbaQ0

    Now if it was such an open process why was there any controversy at all?

    This is far more open than anything having to do with the ACA.

  • Chris Perdue Jun 14, 10:15 a.m.
    user avatar

    Politicians are not very bright. Once you give someone something it is impossible to take it away. The current system is collapsing under it's own weight. Nothing either side can do will satisfy everybody. If I were the republicans I would keep my mouth shut about repeal and replace--it will repeal on it's own in a short time. I would say we tried, but could not come up with something better. Grandfather in current enrollment if they keep continuous coverage, and put some new rules in place for new customers. There has to be a continuous coverage provision or penalty though--this is the only way to keep people from waiting until they are sick to enroll. You are supposed to pay premiums when you don't need it, so it will be there when you do. The current system is not insurance--it is set up for insurance companies to subsidize and cost share your illness when it occurs.

  • Raleigh Rose Jun 14, 10:00 a.m.
    user avatar

    The problem for the GOP is that the ACA is the GOP healthcare plan. It was written at the Heritage Institute then used by Romney. They can't think of another plan because, as much as they screamed about the ACA, it has the provisions in it that they wanted. Everyone buying their own healthcare and being responsible for having healthcare. It is not socialism. If it were, then Obama would have tried to dissolve all the insurance companies and have single payer.

    But yeah, the Dems had hearings, meetings, and debate before passing the ACA. The Republicans have had the better part of a decade to come up with something else that works, and they can't. But didn't Trump promise lower premiums, better care and that everyone would be covered?

  • John Archer Jun 14, 9:38 a.m.
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    The Democrats held hearings, open committee meetings, and months of debate before they passed the ACA. This is NOTHING like that. Nobody outside the 10 Senators writing the thing know what's in it. This is outrageous, especially since every single person in the country will be affected by it.

  • James Marley Jun 14, 8:11 a.m.
    user avatar

    Unfortunately, this is common practice in Washington. The Dems passed Obamacare without knowing what is in it. Naturally a CNN story would never point this out.

    Wake up people we live in a Plutocracy not a Democracy.